MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
RWANDA SOCIETY-ENVIRONMENT PROJECT
The objective of the project is to address natural resources
management (NRM) issues in Rwanda through a collaborative program of
training, research and analysis. The focus is applied research with
policy implications which examines the interdependent relationship
between population pressure, agricultural productivity and land ... degradation in Rwanda. The study addresses the particular
circumstances of Rwanda and will also provide a conceptual and
methodological basis for similar work elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa
The goal of the project is to develop, in Rwanda, a prototype
methodology for determining optimum and minimum data sets for
environmental management in developing countries in Africa and to
determine how to effectively use physical and socio-economic data sets
interactively, e.g. in a GIS, to address NRM policy. Rwanda was
selected as a case study on the basis of its remarkable array of
medium-term data on both environmental and socio-economic conditions.
A decade ago Rwanda was a data-poor country, yet by the early 1990s it
had one of the most comprehensive data sets in sub-Saharan
Africa. This change was a consequence of a number of important
initiatives to improve data availability taken by the Government of
Rwanda with the support of donor agencies such as USAID and Belgian
Technical Cooperation. By the early 1990s the country had a more
refined sub-national, longitudinal data set covering socio-economic
and environmental conditions than most others on the continent. This
included data for 143 communes on agricultural production, crop
acreage and estimated nutritional composition together with data on
livestock ownership. These can be aggregated to the prefecture
level. Census data was available for the 1978 and 1991 censuses. The
calibre of this data permitted an assessment of what are optimum and
minimum data sets for Natural Resources Management (NRM) in Rwanda,
and provided information applicable to other countries in Africa.
Two key questions that formed a guiding theme to the Rwanda
Society-Environment Project were:
what are the minimal and optimal data sets for NRM?
what are the most effective ways of integrating these data sets?
The key findings of the project are that:
there is a need to develop coherent information systems that
incorporate government, project and other information;
as many development and NRM processes cut across national boundaries,
data systems need to be compatible between nations;
existing data collection and management structures require
significant modification to take advantage of ongoing developments in
data management and analysis, and to be effective for the planning and
policy needs of the 21st Century.
NRM requires the integration of information on societal and
environmental processes. A critical objective is to identify the
fundamental information requirements of each.
The most basic socio-economic data base is the population census. This
should be organized so as to accurately reflect the temporal and
spatial dynamics of national demographic trends. The majority of
African countries have a census bureau that is responsible for regular
implementation of a national census, and many supplement this with
intervening sample censuses. The latter is important to gain an
understanding of demographic processes that are too rapid to be
adequately captured by decennial censuses. These include migration and
the impacts of movements caused by political strife, ethnic
discrimination, and events such as floods and famines.
The counterpart in the environmental realm is the topographic map,
preferably digitized, supplemented by remotely-sensed imagery to
provide baseline conditions and dynamics of change in land use/
vegetation cover. These provide a basis for understanding the impact
of human activity on the landscape.
These two data bases form an integrated foundation for the systematic
collection of other data at the national level. The basic principle in
the collection of additional information is that the spatial
resolution of the collection unit should be relevant to the process
that the variable represents and compatible with the fundamental
system of spatial units established for the country. Further, such
information should be collected as regularly as would be justified to
monitor changes that reflect the dynamics of the process concerned.
The project was conducted through collaborative training and research
among the participants: the Department of Geography and the Center for
Advanced Study of International Development, Michigan State University
(MSU-CASID); Global Resource Information Database, United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP-GRID); the Government of Rwanda: Ministry
of Environment and Tourism (MINETO) and Ministry of Agriculture,
Division des Statistiques Agricoles (DSA); and the National University
of Rwanda, Department of Geography (UNR-GEO). Funding was provided by
MSU and CIESIN, IDRC. and UNEP.